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From the author of Making the Right Connection: Dreamweaver's Supported Protocols

Making the Right Connection: Dreamweaver's Supported Protocols

The remote site on your web server is the destination for the files and folders that will be transferred from the local site on your computer's hard disk. Dreamweaver can use a variety of connection protocols (usually FTP, SFTP, or WebDAV) to connect to your web server. More on those protocols in a moment, but for now you'll need to get some information from your site administrator:

  • The kind of connection your web server uses
  • The Internet address of your server
  • Your login (sometimes called a username) for the server
  • Your password
  • The folder's path on the server that contains your website

Once you get all this information, you can edit the site definition to add the remote site information. But first let's take a quick side trip and examine the different connection types.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP), also known as File Transport Protocol, is a common method for transferring files (such as web pages and images) between two computers connected to the Internet. Web servers often use FTP to send files between the server and the computer of the person who is maintaining the website. To do this, the server machine runs an FTP server program in addition to the web server software. Normally you need a program called an FTP client on your computer to transfer files to and from an FTP server. Dreamweaver has built-in client functions for several transfer protocols.

One of the drawbacks to FTP is that this protocol has no built-in security; all information is sent "in the clear," including your username, password, and the files themselves. The Secure FTP (SFTP) protocol solves this problem by encrypting all information sent between the SFTP client (in this case, Dreamweaver) and the SFTP server. SFTP uses the Secure Shell (SSH) protocol to add security to the connection. As a result, it allows encryption but not authentication; the client and the server can't exchange credentials to verify that access is really allowed. Virtually all web hosting companies support FTP and SFTP with no additional configuration needed.

The WebDAV protocol provides security and deals with another problem faced by Dreamweaver users: ensuring that only one person at a time is modifying a particular web page. WebDAV locks a file while it's being edited and releases the lock when the page is completed. Dreamweaver has its own system of locking and unlocking files when you use protocols other than WebDAV; in practice, you won't see a difference in the way Dreamweaver works, no matter which connection protocol you select. Most web hosts support WebDAV, though you or your administrator may need to enable its use on the remote server.

A newer method of adding security to FTP connections is FTP Secure (FTPS), although Dreamweaver doesn't use that terminology; instead it uses the more precise terms FTP over SSL/TLS (implicit encryption) and FTP over SSL/TLS (explicit encryption). With these methods, Dreamweaver not only encrypts its data transfers with the server, but also exchanges security credentials with the servers. These credentials are in the form of digitally signed server certificates, guaranteed by certificate authorities such as VeriSign and Thawte. The explicit encryption method allows both secure and insecure clients to use the server, but implements security if the client requests it. The implicit encryption method allows only secure clients to use the server.

In this article, we won't go into using these connection methods, nor another method Dreamweaver supports called RDS (short for ColdFusion's Remote Development Services, a legacy protocol).

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